Photo by dbking on Flickr.

When passing DC’s FY 2012 budget, DC Council Chairman Kwame Brown and many other members patted themselves on the back for staving off some of the worst cuts to important services. But avoiding many of the cuts depended on extra revenue, and ultimately got bumped for other priorities.

Now, Freeman Klopott reports that Brown is trying to find more money in the budget. But instead of funding these priorities which got left behind, Brown is pushing instead to repeal a tax increase that hits mainly wealthy residents, saying that has been his top priority all along.

That’s news, since when Brown released his version of budget in June, he had 4 items ahead of that in his own priority list, and only 2 have been funded so far. Instead of restoring the bond tax exemption, he should pay for Housing First, the Housing Production Trust Fund, and the other foregone priorities.

Mayor Gray’s original budget proposal included a hike of 0.4% on income over $200,000, which Brown focused much of his effort on eliminating. He ultimately hit on the idea of replacing it with a measure ending the tax exemption on out of state municipal bonds, an exemption that has been eliminated in all other states which had one.

While his rhetoric argued this was fairer, it was clear he really wanted to reverse the change when DC’s revenue estimates turned rosier, as was expected.

Brown addressed the future “unanticipated revenues” through a list of conditional budget items, which would get funded in priority order depending on how much extra money comes in. $21.567 million also goes to the capital budget and 50% of the remainder goes to the reserve fund, so the rightmost column shows how much “unanticipated revenue” there would need to be to get up to that specific item.

ItemCostTotal 2012

UR needed

1. Hiring more police$10.8$43.2
2. Housing First (homeless housing)$1.6$46.4
3. Housing Production Trust Fund (affordable housing)$12.0$70.4
4. Mental illness services (housing and children’s services)$5.5$81.4
5. Restoring bond exemption for pre-10/1/2011 bonds$13.4$108.2
6. Keeping MLK Library open on Sundays$0.3$108.8
7. Main Streets green teams$1.8$112.4
8. Parking rates lowered to $1/hr in busiest areas$3.0$118.4
9. Buying books for libraries$1.4$121.3
10. Early childhood education$2.0$125.3
All figures in millions.

But the Council had a few other ideas. Tommy Wells successfully passed an amendment to replace restoring the bond exemption with a set of other items: interim disability, affordable housing, children’s mental health, and homeless services. He had to give Vincent Orange $500,000 to throw a party at the Lincoln Theater, where Orange serves on the board, to get enough votes.

Between first and second reading, the Gray administration disclosed a large spending pressure for FY 2012 involving healthcare providers for DC’s Medicaid and DC Alliance programs that went onto the top of the list. The Council then moved the Green Teams to the top.

Meanwhile, there was also some “unanticipated revenue” in FY2011, the current budget year. The mayor proposes to use that to fund the Medicaid costs, school nurses, police, and mental health services, all of which would then come off the list for how to spend FY2012 money.

Finally, the FY2012 “unanticipated revenue” estimate is $77 million at the moment, enough to just fund the green teams and the rest of the Medicaid costs. That could increase or decrease in the future.

This list summarizes all the items and how they will be funded with 2011 or 2012 money under the current estimates. Items in green are currently slated to get funded, while red items are not. As above, the rightmost column shows the total amount of “unanticipated revenue” needed for that item and all above it to get funded.

ItemCost2011Total 2012

UR needed

1. Main Streets green teams$1.8$25.2
2. Payments to Medicaid managed care companies$32.0$6.0$77.2
3. School nurses$12.5$12.5
4. Hiring more police$10.8$10.8
5. Housing First (homeless housing)$1.6$80.4
6. Housing Production Trust Fund (affordable housing)$12.0$104.4
7. Mental illness services (housing and children’s services)$3.5$3.51
8. Interim disability, affordable housing, children’s mental health, homeless services, and Vincent Orange’s party$13.4$131.2
9. Keeping MLK Library open on Sundays$0.3$131.8
10. Parking rates lowered to $1/hr in busiest areas$3.02$137.8
11. Buying books for libraries$1.4$140.6
12. Early childhood education$2.0$144.6
All figures in millions.
1 The original item listed $5.5 million, but the administration now thinks they can cover the remainder through savings in the existing mental health budget.

2 Due to an error by the budget office, $3 million isn’t enough to revert all $2/hour meters to $1/hour.

This is the Council’s priority list. If more money comes available, whether found elsewhere in the budget or through increases in “unanticipated revenue,” it should go to these priorities.

What it shouldn’t go toward is reverting the bond tax exemption. Brown himself declared a list of priorities that put Housing First and affordable housing, well, first—or at least ahead of reversing the bond tax.

It’s disappointing that now he wants to go after that again, even though higher priorities on his own list are still not funded, and the Council made clear that it wants to restore cuts to services instead with extra money. Brown should follow the Council’s wishes, rather than putting first his own priorities which aren’t even shared by most DC residents.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.